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05. September 2007

Schlaffer, First Lady, Monbart © Frank Räther

First Lady Shadya Karume with Edit Schlaffer and Claudia von Monbart (Worldbank) with her team

Kilimanjaro © Frank Räther

Gruppe Tansania © Frank Räther

The meeting with Zanzibar´s president Karume

SchülerInnen Tansania © Frank Räther

Frauen in Tansania © Frank Räther

Major B. Kinabo © Frank Räther

Bernadette Kinabo, deputy major from Moshi

Kinder in Tansania © Frank Räther

E.Schlaffer&First Lady © Frank Räther

Edit Schlaffer talking to First Lady Shadya Karume

Tanzania – Success Made in Africa?

Africa will be the test for the achievement of the Millennium Goals. Worldwide, Africa is on the agenda. From the World Bank to Bill Gates, from Angela Merkel to Bill Clinton, an entire flock of international actors has turned their attention towards Afri

A report from Edit Schlaffer

Bono and the international pop scene are striking hopeful notes, singing about corruption, malaria, AIDS and poverty. Thirty years ago I travelled across Tanzania with a backpack. Tanzania - the expanse of the Serengeti, the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro and the romantic, Arab-infused island paradise, Zanzibar. Climbing the Kilimanjaro is one of the main tourist attractions and source of income for the country. The ascent does not require particularly advanced mountaineering skills, merely a carefully put together set of equipment: determination, stamina and willpower, and most importantly, the belief that the peak, the Uhuru, which is Swahili for “freedom”, can be reached. And this is precisely what Africa needs – freedom from poverty and disease. The journey is difficult, but the way is clear: a functioning government, education and training and the inclusion of women in economic structures.

This time around, I am returning to Tanzania with a delegation of World Bank journalists. The Kilimanjaro is as grand as ever, though the snow cover is visibly depleted. Moshi, the strategically important town in the north is surrounded by coffee plantations. Coffee prices have fallen drastically over the past years, with considerable consequences for the region. Coffee plants weren’t cultivated and the young men from the region have migrated. Bernadette Kinabo, the Deputy Mayor of Moshi remains optimistic: “We have left the times of despair behind us. Everywhere I look, I see hope”.

The politics of liberalisation have started a new type of economising in Tanzania. Neyerere’s socialist experiment is a thing of the past. Coffee cooperatives are based on competition and the strategy is higher quality and higher prices, which has brought them a contract with Starbucks. Niche markets, like specialty coffees, are also being served. The country is currently establishing itself as a top producer, alongside the leaders of the international market, Kenya and Colombia, of fine coffee. Women are playing an increasingly important role in the coffee business, whereas they used only be active in the cultivation of the less lucrative banana crops. Marcelina Isaacs proudly shows us her small cooperative of twelve coffee farmers, which she heads. She is content with her life. She has seven grown up children, with one son studying medicine in Nairobi.

Tanzania has no valuable natural resources or industry to speak of. Agriculture is the basis of the economy and accounts for about half of the country’s national income. The farms are small – often less than one hectare and never more than three hectares in size. Only 10% of farming is done with the help of tractors, 20% with oxen, the rest is hand hoed. The lack of technology and the extended periods of drought are constant setbacks in the attempt to make agriculture more profitable.

Targeted irrigation is central to stable agricultural production, upon which the country is dependent as its source of food. Agriculture is a difficult business and, to a large part, lies in female hands. The government, in its strategies for poverty reduction, relies on the agricultural sector, the efficiency and success of which is closely tied to infrastructure, like road building, improving the credit system and fighting corruption at the local level.

The strengthening of human capital is a great challenge for the future of the country and a top priority for the government. The Minister of Education speaks openly about the severe problems in this area. Though all children have the right to a free primary school education, quality control is crucial. Classes are overfilled, even in primary school the drop-out rates are high, and only a small fraction continue to further education. The Secretary has started a major campaign to reverse this trend, which affects girls especially. The reasons for this are indisputable: girls are getting pregnant at a young age, rarely by choice. Long distances to school are not only exhausting, but dangerous. The raping of schoolgirls is a taboo topic, though both the female ministers for community building, women and children and for education are determined to tackle this issue through awareness campaigns as well as legal measures. President Jakaya Kikwete appealed to the public in June of this year, to report all rapists to the authorities. At a rally in the district of Mpanda the president announced clearly that girls as young as eleven were getting pregnant and that this was “absurd”.

The frequency of teen marriages and child labour are leading to an increase in the number of school drop-puts, which rose as high as 45,000 this year, an increase of 13,000 within one year. Local women’s organisations, like the committed Tanzania Media Women Association, are aggressively lobbying to raise the marrying age from 14 to 18 years.

Even if children do remain in schools, the system is riddled with lasting deficits. The lack of competent teachers means that the initial enthusiasm and motivation of the children turns into boredom and the refusal to perform well at school. Adequate qualifications and training for teachers should be a priority. The results are especially poor in Mathematics and the Natural Sciences. The Minister puts forward a spontaneous idea: “Couldn’t Austria send us qualified teachers? We need everything, just everything – Maths, Chemistry, IT and especially English. Even if they are still students themselves, it would be an infinite help. Another problem that adds to this is AIDS, which affects many teachers every year.

In politics, women occupy high profile positions, such as in the Ministry of Finance. In the office of the standing Gender Director, I listen in astonishment to the list of demands and planned measures of Director Mariam Mwafflisi, who is paying tribute to a Scandinavian plan of action, by which all Ministries are to be assigned special representatives for women’s issues. The most pressing issue is a gender sensitive budget, to guarantee that necessary financing is geared towards women, to enable them to become economically active.

According to Marian, the economic role of women will set the trend for success in the country. “When men are given money, they waste it on getting themselves a new woman. Women, on the other hand, spend all their money on the family and the community.” On her travels to remote provinces, Marian tries to motivate the people to educate their girls. “I always say: Look at me. I come from the country and my family was not wealthy. But look where I am now – all because I learned.”

The entire education sector is dependent on foreign support and for the international community this is the foremost area of investment in the partnership with Africa.

Zanzibar and the even smaller island of Pemba, which is part of the Republic of Tanganjika and has it’s own government, is a jewel in the Indian Ocean and has associations of seafarers and spices. Stonetown, the capital, is a twenty minute flight from the mainland. Driving the short distance from the airport into the city, you abruptly enter the problem zone. Waste and rubbish litter the streets and concrete blocks, which resemble the buildings of seventies East Germany, are reminders of Tanzania’s socialist past. The city is adorned with grand buildings with artfully carved entrances, though these are dilapidated and surrounded by an aura of impermanence. UNESCO’s World Heritage label may help to delay the the downfall of this treasure, but only under the condition that sufficient finances are dedicated to the project.

There are one million Zanzibaris, of which 98% are muslim, living on an area of 2460 square kilometres. Amani Karume was elected president of the island after a turbulent election campaign, which cost 23 people their lives. So he moved back into his childhood home, a white palace on the beach, surrounded by palm trees, which was also his father’s residence when he ruled the island.

In an interview I ask him whether, in his opinion, islamist fundamentalists have or seek influence. According to World Bank ranking, Tanzania and Zanzibar are amongst the most stable African countries. Without hesitation, Karume retorts that “Zanzibar is a secular state, it always has been and as long as I am President, it will remain that way.” I ask him what he does for the women of Zanzibar. This he answers with a charming smile and says, “The information I can provide probably won’t satisfy you. I suggest you ask the First Lady about this tomorrow morning.”

He was not promising too much. Shadya Amani Karume is not only a wife, she is an activist and chairs the Women’s Organisation, Zayedesa. She talks without deviation about domestic violence, drug abuse, prostitution and AIDS. “Our youth has many problems, they are restless and have lost their way.” The reasons for this are apparent. High levels of unemployment and limited access to education paint a bleak picture for the future. Zanzibar could have the perfect conditions to be a Best-Practice model for successful development. The country is fertile and managable. Everything can be grown, yet it is all imported, from lettuce to hotel staff. The entire infrastructure is provided by the mainland and young people either leave the island or live in poverty. Mrs. Karume describes a strong vision: “We have fantastic beaches, a unique cultural heritage. If we carefully develop our tourist industry, whilst limiting mass tourism, which does more harm than good, gear agricultural production towards the needs of the hotels, thereby becoming autonomous, then we have won.”

The sun could be used as an alternative energy source, the teenagers could be educated in environmentally friendly farming techniques, the waste that is burying the island could be professionally disposed of and used, and the local markets could concentrate on alternative products, which they may then be able to provide to the mainland. This could transform Zanzibar into a swimming island of hope, and serve as an example of Success Made in Africa – Powered by ...? It is this piece of the mosaic that is still missing – cooperation and investment from the developed world. This includes Austria.

Translated from German by Katie Reading

This article was published in Die Furche on September 7th 2007.


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